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From an Intern’s Perspective: A message from Jeff as an Intern

Today, I thought it’d be fun to revisit a post from Jeff Ford from when he was an intern in the “From an Intern’s Perspective” series. This post discusses eating from bordem and not from hunger, and how to distinguish between the two. I’ve found myself in this situation a few times…


Boredom strikes … What do you do? Quick! Think! … Are you tying up the tennis shoes to hit the streets for a thermal walk or are you reaching into the freezer for a delicious indulgence?

We’ve all been there – victims of eating when were not hungry, so how can we avoid this appetite ambush? Underneath are 3 of the most common surefire signals to help you recognize when your head is doing the eating and not your stomach.

Sudden: Emotional eating (a.k.a. Head Hunger) always comes on suddenly. One second you’re watching your favorite television show and the next you’re craving something sweet. It’s really a spur of the moment kind of feeling that can be sparked or paired with any emotion.


Specific: According to psychologists, emotional eating cravings are usually very specific. People seem to desire that one particular comfort food and won’t be satisfied with just any type of chow, especially not fruits and vegetables.


Shameful: If you happened to eat by listening to the head, then there will usually be feelings of guilt and you’ll promise to make up for the eating in some other way. Feelings of guilt should never be left behind after a meal (we eat to live right?). So if you are bumming out and saying to yourself “Oh, I’ll skip a meal tomorrow to make up for it,” your hunger was certainly not physical.

Head Hunger

Now that you know how to distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger, you may be thinking how can I not only recognize these signals, but overcome them.  The biggest thing for me personally is not keeping these so called “trigger or comfort foods” in the house.  Consequently, I do not keep ice cream in the apartment because I have realized that this is a food I can’t control. 

The good thing is I am not alone, ice cream happens to be the number one comfort food for Americans.  To put it simply, I like to think of the phrase “out of sight, out of stomach.”  By not making the frozen treat readily available and having viable substitutes, I am more apt to reach for an apple or a yogurt when I need a pick me up.

Here at Hilton Head Health, Dr. Beth Leermakers, our Wellness Counselor provides noteworthy lectures on Stress Eating and Overcoming Emotional Eating, which give our Guests a larger scope on this topic. Moreover, the H3 program has been proud to host specialty weeks featuring Johanna Smith-Ellis, a certified psychologist, whose experience has led her to be very knowledgeable on the subject. Since you may have missed them on your last visit, or have not yet stayed at H3, below is a quick glimpse to what I’ve picked up in lectures on how to evade emotional eating.

¨       Write down your trigger foods 

¨       Create a list of alternatives (Use the alphabet!)

¨       Find a comfort food that’s healthy  

¨       Go for a signature H3 thermal walk!   

¨       Call a friend or take a nap

¨       Check out some resources on emotional eating (*)


There are a few tricks that work for most people, but strive to find what is ideal for you personally. Remember, we all over eat sometimes and there is no reason to feel guilty about it! I am by no means an expert, thus I’ll leave you with a few resources to peruse at your leisure.

Nevertheless, keep in mind the 3 S’s to recognize head hunger, and think of this quote when the appetite ambush arises:

“If hunger is not the problem, then eating is not the solution.”
~ Anonymous


Check it out:

WebMD; http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/emotional-eating-feeding-your-feelings

Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/MH00025

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